Women hit the road ― on two wheels, not fourKim Su-min is the front desk receptionist at the Renaissance Hotel in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul. Although her job requires her to look immaculate and wear a formal uniform, she looks very different when she is traveling to and from work.
With cut-off jeans, a bright-colored tank top and her hair secured under a kerchief, she zips to work on her shiny red and white Honda RX100 motorcycle.
At work, she takes off her black and orange sneakers and slips into high heels and uniform, ready to cater to the hotel’s top guests. She is one of the increasing number of young women who are riding motorcycles to work.
“I used to drive a car to work, but the roads were so congested it would annoy me,” Ms. Kim says. “So two months ago, I decided to buy a motorcycle. Now it only takes me 10 minutes to go to work.”
“I’m paying way less for fuel, and on the weekends, I travel out of the city with other motorcycle riders who are part of this bike community I’m a member of,” she says. “We drive out of the city and just let go all of our stress. It’s one of the other benefits of having a motorcycle.”
The trend of working women riding motorcycles and scooters has made the vehicles more of a fashion statement. Before, motorcycles and scooters were considered more appropriate for Chinese food deliverers, quick service errand boys, gangsters or men who favor pricey bikes such as Harley Davidsons.
Catering to the growing number of fashionable bike riders, protection equipment makers are hastening to provide “prettier” gear.
“About half of all the helmets that we sell are fashion helmets,” said Koh Byung-hee, owner of Helmet Mall, an online helmet shopping mall. “Fashion helmets come in bright colors and some only cover half of the face. The trend just started going last year along with the popularity of classic scooters among women.”
By classic scooter, Mr. Koh was referring to chrome-plated scooters with large, round headlights and large handles.
Clothing brands are also releasing what they call “bike looks.”
The bike look is not heavy leather with metal studs, but usually clothes made with lightweight synthetic fiber and pants that end mid-calf.
“The clothes are not just visually pleasing, but also functional,” said Ji Hyun-jeong, a product planner for GAS in Korea. “For instance, if you fall off your bike, you have to be wearing clothes that can protect your skin, but that doesn’t mean you have to dress like the Terminator.”
GAS is an Italian jeans brand that provides uniforms for Honda’s racing team and has started selling vintage-style jeans and brightly colored tops in Korea.
“The bike look is different from other styles in that the clothes try to reinterpret the speed and thrills involved in riding into vivid colors and unique designs,” Ms. Ji said.
Fashion brands such as Le Coq Sportif and EXR are including racing motifs in their designs as people who don’t even ride bikes are picking up on the look.
Experts, however, warn that although looking cool is nice, fashionable riders should be more careful about safety.
“Half-face helmets may be popular, but even scooters can go 60 kilometers an hour,” said Shin Bum-jun, an official at Honda Korea’s motorcycle department. “At high speeds, it is better to use full face helmets that protect your entire head.”
by Jo Do-yeon